The first real city council of the term is one that not many people are looking forward to. You might have heard about Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, and City staff have heard of it too. They also have some considerable concerns about the legislation, which is why we’re having a whole meeting about it on Tuesday. Here’s the late breaking preview of the meeting per the amended agenda.
NOTE #1: Delegates will be able to appear at this meeting in-person or via tele-presense but you do have to register with the clerks office before 10 am on Monday November 21. You can also submit written delegations and correspondences for agenda items.
NOTE #2: This meeting will also be live-streamed on the City of Guelph’s website here.
NOTE #3: This meeting starts at 10 am.
Analysis of Bill 109 (More Homes for Everyone Act, 2022) and Bill 23 (More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022) -“The changes to the Development Charges Act and the Planning Act regarding Parkland Dedication and Community Benefits Charges pose a risk to the City of Guelph’s ability to fund the infrastructure required to support growth; this challenge is exacerbated by a near doubling of provincial growth targets for Guelph.” This is the final analysis in letter signed by acting GM of Finance Shanna O’Dwyer to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing about proposed legislative changes to various planning acts.
This special meeting is meant to gauge staff’s reaction to Bill 109 introduced back in March, but especially Bill 23 which was introduced last month. Bill 23 is sweeping omnibus bill that will re-write several pieces of legislation to allow more as-of-right zoning, create a definition for affordable housing, limit the amount of development and community benefit charges, reduce site plan timing, reduce the influence of conservation authorities, and allow the Province to override some municipal planning decisions.
According to the staff report, the changes in Bill 23 will have a big impact on not just Guelph’s planning procedures and oversight, but also on the City’s bottom line.
“The financial implications of Bill 23 if enacted as written, will have a significant impact on the ability of the City to fund growth related capital costs,” the report reads. “Accelerated City growth will require an accelerated infrastructure plan and the City’s fiscal capacity to support this growth would be challenged even without the revenue loss from Bill 23.”
According to estimates prepared by Watson & Associates, the loss of development charge revenue could be between 10 and 15 per cent; when considering the amount of revenue the City took in last year, this would account for a $2.1 million loss in City revenues. There will also be a big impact with new DC discounts and exemptions because as it stood in 2021 the City gave out $4.1 million in exemptions, and covering those costs comes out of property taxes and utility rates.
Another area of concern is the way that the Bill excludes land purchases among capital costs, which could increase the costs of installing new roads, sidewalks, and other services. Using 15 years as the average for calculating service levels instead of 10 years will also have some impacts on the City’s budget, and staff also note a need for clarity on the Bill’s requirement to spend 60 per cent of the monies in reserve funds for water, wastewater and highways at the beginning of every year.
In terms of changes to the new Community Benefit Charge, staff noted the pressure on their time and effort considering that the regulations for the CBC just went into effect in September. The impacts of Bill 23’s changes on the CBC are not fully known yet because they’re new, and because the CBC doesn’t count as a significant revenue generator yet.
In terms of Parkland Dedication there are more dire concerns. By increasing the maximum alternative deduction from one hectare per 600 units, or one hectare per 1,000 units for cash-in-lieu, it could account for the City losing half of the Parkland Dedication it collects as determined using 2021 figures. Also of concern is the fact that parkland is now capped at 15 per cent for sites greater than five hectares, which is half of the 30 per cent cap currently in place for lands downtown.
City staff also warn that the pressure to build 18,000 new units over the next 10 years will require the construction of new infrastructure, and it comes at a time when Guelph’s backlog is $289 million, while at the same time assets worth hundreds of million more come to the end of their lifespan in the next five-to-ten years. And while the City is generally in favour of making some positive change to the Ontario Land Tribunal, it’s less bullish on changes to the conservation authorities. Staff expressed concerns that benching the authorities could have an impact on natural heritage protection and flood control.
The 34-page report covers multiple aspects of the proposed changes in Bill 23 and Bill 109 including some radical changes to the Heritage Act already covered by Heritage Guelph in their most recent meeting.
“In addition to lost revenue, there are other financial impacts expected from Bill 23, including increased staffing requirements to support nearly double the volume of planning and building activity and then subsequently double the pace of services expansion needs not just at the City, but also the health care sector and school boards to meet the demands of these new populations,” the report reads.
“However, it will take time for the development community to increase activity and for staff figure out a plan to respond to this required increase in volume to meet the new provincial targets; budget requests to resource this will be brought to Council as part of the 2024-2027 Multi-Year Budget in late 2023.”
CAO Scott Stewart, DCAO Jayne Holmes and other members of senior staff will be giving a presentation at the meeting before council debates eight recommendations from staff including a request to extend the comment period for the bill, to begin a planning and development fee review in 2023, and a request to the Province to look review policies and penalties related to approved, unbuilt housing units.